SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid has provided the strongest indication yet the government broadcaster is looking to escape from its current A-League broadcast contract while responding to questioning in Senate Estimates yesterday.
When asked about the performance of A-League on SBS, Ebeid described 2015 broadcast ratings as “pretty much flat” in comparison with 2014, this despite SBS having moved the competition to the main channel in a bid to attract bigger audiences.
“We put it (A-League) on SBS One in the hope it would get a good uplift, that uplift didn’t happen.”
“It has meant that we have lost more on the A-League in this financial year than we did last financial year, its hurt us both in terms of audience share and ratings.”
SBS’s Director of Content Helen Kelly added, “The A-League was significantly lower than our average ratings on SBS One. It significantly brought down our Friday night performance on One and that’s something were going to have to consider.”
In an intriguing exchange, former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy put it to Ebeid that he was aware “that there are negotiations going on between SBS to off-load the (remaining two years of) A-League.” It has been widely speculated 7, 9 and 10 are considering putting A-League on one of their multi-channels.
Ebeid responded to the allegations stating “Their confidential conversations, Senator”. Kelly added, “We would breach our FFA Agreement”
When asked directly by Senator Conroy if SBS was negotiating to offload its A-League commitments, Ebeid stated he “had nothing to report” and that it was “completely confidential.”
While Fox Sports and SBS are only two years into a four-year deal to broadcast A-League, Football Federation CEO David Gallop told journalists in December that negotiations over a new broadcast deal had already begun and the existing contract could even be terminated early. He also added that there had been dialogue with the Ten Network.
“All the signs are that Channel Ten recognise the value of live sport,” Gallop said.
The FFA is hoping to double the value of the next deal to 80 Million Dollars. Sources at Fox Sports have to indicated to this website they were unlikely to seek exclusive rights for A-League in a new deal with two games on commercial Free to Air Television the preferred outcome. Fox Sports is hoping increased exposure and marketing of the game by a commercial network would also benefit their business.
As well as A-League, SBS holds all Australian broadcast and Internet rights for the FIFA World Cup until 2022 including events in Russia and Qatar. Ebeid was asked if SBS was looking to sell part of these rights to offset recent budget cuts.
“At this stage there is no suggestion of that” “I can’t say to you it could never happen.”
Ebeid went on to indicate it might be possible if “Government continues to cut our funding,” however “There are no discussions that are happening at all around on-selling, off-selling, part-selling of The World Cup.”
Ebeid also denied recent media reports that SBS would not bid for UEFA Champions League rights, “It’s nonsense, we have been broadcasting Champions League for 20 years. We don’t plan on losing it now if we can help it.”
SBS’s current broadcast deal for the Champions League has now expired. An announcement on a new deal is expected next month with SBS competing against Pay TV operators Fox Sports, ESPN and beIN Sports.